New York ‘Newsies’ weekend: The main event


The name alone inspires wonder and, if you’re a theatre nerd like me, a bit of awe. When my sister and I heard “Newsies” was shifting from a 1992 cult film to a prized New York City stage performance, we gobbled up tickets — and made plans to head up for the weekend. We heard about the show after seeing “King Of New York” performed at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then finalized our plans in February. And then? Then, I kind of forgot about it. Because life gets crazy. Because I was planning another trip, busy at work and trying to keep all the plates spinning.

Before we knew it, I was tossing some clothes in a suitcase and hopping on a train to Penn Station. Kate and I got to New York at lunchtime Saturday and hit the ground running, getting a sandwich en route to Times Square and scoping out the New York Public Library (more coming soon). For a book nerd like me, the NYPL was the mecca I’d imagined it would be — and posing with the stone lions was a definite highlight. What can I say? I’m a sucker for tourist hotspots. And though I tried not to scream “TOURIST!” for 48 hours, I was a tourist. And it felt good.

After sightseeing, changing for the evening and enjoying a delicious dinner at Haru on 43rd Street (like my NYC street knowledge?), we made it to the Nederlander Theatre and joined the queue to enter “Newsies,” the entire crazy reason we’d poured ourselves up to the city. After we got in line, the queue wrapped easily around the block — and the audience energy was palpable. People everywhere were chatting, talking excitedly and snapping photos with the flashy marquee. Though I didn’t remember much about “Newsies” (beyond my sister’s favorite songs), I was pumped, too. A real Broadway show! Serious actors! Staying up late in Manhattan!

It was everything I would have wanted — and my sister loved it. A lifelong “Newsies” fan, she performed tunes like “King Of New York” and “Seize The Day” in an elementary school talent show — and I can still picture her dancing in her newsboy cap, so proud of her moves and lyrics. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe my 23-year-old sister is . . . well, 23. Being older, I’m perpetually unaware of her growth and change. To me, she’s still my 5-year-old sidekick with the long tresses and easy laugh.

I’m so glad we could share the experience. Jeremy Jordan was wonderful as Jack Kelly, the smokin’ hot and charismatic leader of the newsboy crew. When newspaper heavyweight Joseph Pulitzer raises the cost of papers (or “papes,” if you’re cool with Newsie lingo), the army of homeless and hungry newsboys in New York City’s boroughs rebel against the added financial burden. Kelly becomes their mouthpiece, organizing a newsboy union and striking. Against arguably the most powerful man in media. This was in 1899 — and based on a true story.

The Broadway rendition is probably catchier than the real-life struggle of hundreds of kids more than a century ago, but that’s quite all right. I like my history with a side of adorable dancing men, stuck-in-your-head-forever show tunes and intrepid girl reporters. “Seize The Day” should be my new anthem as I struggle to get up for work — and these aren’t the kinds of songs you’ll soon forget. The audience was completely into it, leaning forward and dancing in their seats. Aside from the audience member in front of me who almost got a swift kick to the head (literally — I fantasized about it) for her obnoxious screaming (really?), I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

And then we got egg creams and cheesecake from a diner near our hotel and I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.

If you’re in the NYC area or looking for a fun day trip, “Newsies” is well worth a look. We were told by another show goer that the story enjoys a cult following — and judging by the audience’s pumped-up dance moves and enthusiastic standing ovation, I don’t doubt that for a second.

Toes in the water

Break out the sand and Cheerwine — I’m headed to the beach! I’m joining my family for our annual excursion to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My plan is to procure lots of postcards, read as much as possible and try not to get sunburned before Erin’s wedding in a few weeks. (Blood-red tan lines? Not cute with my halter-style dress.)

An absurd amount of effort will probably be placed on not blowing my diet, exercising as much as I can ( . . . I’m chuckling just typing that, but I really am going to try) and missing my boyfriend. Avoiding confections from Dairy Queen and delicious fried seafood is going to be a challenge, but I’m determined to slim down before Sept. 10.

So what’s in my beach bag? I haven’t quite decided, but I have a feeling I’m going to bring along J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine and Jenny Han’s It’s Not Summer Without You. I’ve been saving the latter for just such an occasion — and my own time at the family beach house seems like the perfect time to continue this series. I usually don’t pick my books until just as I’m leaving; it’s a big commitment, choosing my beach books. They’re the ones around which I’ll form my trip memories. They’re the stories I’ll look back on and think, “Oh yes — I read that in my favorite chair.”

Hope you’re all enjoying the waning days of summer and have made the most of your time in the sun. I’ll see you next week!

British escape, part I: London, England

London is my BFF. On this, my third visit to England in four years, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was pre-Royal Wedding week, after all — and having had the greatest time on my previous visit, nerves pulsed in my stomach. What if London wasn’t the way I remembered it? What if — two years later — I felt older, wiser — and thoroughly less enchanted? What if something bad happened and it was forever tarnished for me?

Oh, the agony.

Well. It wasn’t tarnished — or anywhere close. It was . . . comfortable. Familiar. It was a place I’d already navigated and seen and photographed, which opened up a whole new door for me: feeling less like a tourist and more like a local. Branching out and doing different things.

I wasn’t a local, of course; I was an enthusiast. And I met locals — including Lyndsey — and was still the sweaty, disoriented and Tube map-clutching American wandering around the city with her family . . . but that was okay. I had my bearings. And seeing Big Ben peeking through the treetops still gave me a happy, familiar jolt of excitement.

Twice before I’d taken red-eye flights to England and arrived in London just as the city was waking up. This usually left me bleary-eyed and exhausted for the full day ahead of me, so we made a different plan this time: leaving Washington, D.C., in the morning and arriving in London at night. So that’s what we did — getting to Heathrow around 10 p.m. local time.

It was a very strange sensation, watching the clouds turned golden as our plane dipped closer to the United Kingdom. “It’s sunset!” I cried at one point, peering at my small watch. Night closed in and encompassed the plane, tampering with my body clock. It was 3 p.m. at home.

After a good night’s sleep, it was off to explore the city on Thursday and hunt for royal souvenirs — and that meant leaving our hotel near Heathrow for central London, where we were staying in Islington. With four heavy, 50-lb. suitcases apiece, getting to the next location was a little scary. We packed up our stuff and found a bus that would take us to the closest Tube station, where I was in charge of navigating us to our next hotel.

I’ll toot my own horn right here: over the course of our four combined days getting around London at both the beginning and end of the trip, I didn’t get us lost on the Underground one time. This is all thanks to my friend Stacy, who taught me not to be afraid of the train system with its complicated, crazy maze of lines and colors and names. After stowing our stuff, we left to explore the city.

We hopped on the Tube en route to Knightsbridge, where we had lunch at Spaghetti House near the world-famous department store Harrods. Exhaustion was setting in at that point, rendering me a hungry, disoriented beast; I woofed down some pasta after laughing with my family about a guy who looked like Edward Cullen on a “date” that didn’t seem to be going well; neither he or the hairbow-wearing lady he was sitting with were saying a word to each other.

The man had show-stoppingly good hair.

After walking through Knightsbridge, it was over to Hyde Park to try and find “traditional English gardens.” Like me, my mother is never without her camera — and we were eager to find flowers to photograph. It was a gray day, but warm and without rain, so we embarked on foot for the park and a chance to see the Diana Memorial Fountain.

And that’s where I screwed up.

We’d gotten off the Tube at Hyde Park Corner, which was close to lunch but . . . not the fountain. Without a phone on which to check a map or the location of the fountain, I had no idea how far away it would be — but hey, I debated, how bad of a walk could it be? We’re on one side of the park; the fountain’s on the other. We need some exercise. We can make it.



We made it. An hour or so of walking, detours throughout the grass expanse of Hyde Park, stops to photograph a few stray tulips and a Ferris wheel that had taken up residence there and . . . we made it. But by the time we arrived at the fountain, we weren’t much in the mood for photographing little kids splashing in the burbling water.

We were exhausted.

I felt bad. No, really — I did. I was okay, but I knew we were all suffering badly from jetlag (it was barely morning at home!) and the last thing we needed was a miles-long walk around an entire British park. Still, my family was a trio of troopers! We even walked over to Buckingham Palace next, where we purchased royal souvenirs and loitered in the shops there. Television crews lined the streets surrounding the palace, some interviewing passersby and others doing stand-ups with wedding news. My sister, a video journalist, was drawn to the cameramen and anchors like flies to honey; we couldn’t resist pausing by a woman with a BBC lanyard to see if she needed any, um, interviewees. (She didn’t, I guess.)

And then? Then we walked from Buckingham to Trafalgar Square, one of my favorite spots in the city, where was I tremendously disappointed to see the fountains weren’t turned on (but I did get to make a wish in the Victoria Memorial fountain by Buckingham)! Crowds still loitered on the steps of the National Gallery and gazed at the large clock counting down the hours until the 2012 Olympics, which will soon take the city by siege.

We sat for a few minutes to collect our thoughts (and calm our racing hearts), then headed to The Sherlock Holmes nearby — a restaurant I’ve been dying to visit since first spotting it in a calendar years ago. It looked so pretty! So fresh! So British! And it didn’t disappoint. Dinner was delicious — a perfect collection of hearty and savory foods, and it was fun to sit in a place with so much atmosphere. Downstairs the pub was jumpin’, with the after-work crowd loitering in the streets for happy hour. In the streets. With beers. That was a funny sight, honestly: people drinking right out in the open. At most spots in the U.S., do that and you’ll have a nice chat with a police officer for your “open container.”

After dinner, my energy level was hitting a low point — and our collective legs were screaming from the miles we’d walked that day. We popped in a Waterstone’s bookstore en route to the nearest Tube stop, where I had fun looking at the differences between British and American book covers (like this one, for Emma Donoghue’s Room). Funny signs littered the store, too, and I really enjoyed the ambiance of wandering around a city bookstore in the evening. Though I left empty handed (trying to preserve much-coveted space in my suitcase!), it was a fun visit.

Friday dawned bright and sunny and, thankfully, I was feeling way better after a good night’s sleep. We hopped over to Covent Garden, another place that had long been on my “to be visited in London” list, and enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere of the busy commercial area. Street performers were swamped by crowds of tourists and locals with cameras and phones, laughing at the antics of a man performing magic with audience participation. I loved walking through the open-air markets and dodging in the little stores.

Hunger was taking over by the time lunch rolled around — and how fortunate, because I was meeting up with the lovely Lyndsey of Teadevotee! We’d made plans to see one another when I announced my travel plans months before and found each other at Bill’s, a lovely cafe between Covent Garden and Leicester Square. I’ve met up with fellow book bloggers several times before and am never, ever disappointed; Lyndsey was exactly the funny, sweet person I felt I knew. She recognized me just as I recognized her and, after a moment of accidentally appearing in the background of a fashion commercial (?? Oh, London!), we made it the cafe.

Poor Lyndsey probably didn’t expect to dine with a table of journalists. It’s in our nature to pepper innocent people with questions, so the inquisition began: what do you do? What does your husband do? What’s life in England like? Are you excited about the wedding? (I’m sure everyone in London is really, really sick of being asked that.) Lyndsey was gracious enough to answer our countless inquiries and even brought me a gift: a copy of a Jane Austen biography that I’ve never seen and can’t wait to read. Sweetness! We said our goodbyes and snapped a few photos. I tried not to look like the frizzy-haired, jetlagged monster I was.

With hours to go before meeting up with our tour group later that evening to embark on an eight-day jaunt through the rest of the UK, Mom, Dad, Kate and I went over to see the London Eye, the famous Ferris wheel constructed in 1999. We queued up with hundreds of people to get a birds-eye view of London, which was awesome — and very different from the air! London is huge. Massive. Sprawling in every direction, giant and encompassing . . . and how strange to see Big Ben from the air, where it’s not nearly as majestic as when you’re on foot.

We took a riverboat cruise on the Thames River next, which took us up and down the river en route to Tower Bridge and back. I love being on the water — especially on vacation. You see so much more that way. Though I couldn’t snap many photos without someone’s head or camera in them, it was fun to see the city that way . . . and so nice to just sit down.

After the boat ride, I convinced my family to walk across Westminster Bridge, which spans the Thames, to get a closer look at Parliament and Big Ben (again). On my last trip, walking across that bridge at sunset was one of my fondest memories . . . magical and surreal. It felt good to be there again, but hard to believe — especially since I wasn’t sure when I’d ever make it across the pond again!

We wrapped up our third night in the city by having dinner at the hotel and getting a good night’s rest — and we’d need it. On Saturday morning, our alarms chimed at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. local time to begin the leg of our tour with Trafalgar Tours, which I’ll tell you all about . . . next time.

Hint: it involves the English countryside, cathedrals, countless medieval streets and clotted cream fudge.

If nothing else, you have to come back for the fudge.

A pint for you — off to England

Friends, neighbors, countrymen — I’m headed back to England. And added to my vacation experience will be tours of Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I’ll be everywhere and keeping busy, and hope to take approximately 4,000 photos and make countless memories.

I’m taking my “holiday” as a chance to unwind and unplug — and, you know, an international phone plan would be way too rich for my blood. So I’m going off the grid. It’s super exciting, but I will miss you all — and won’t expect to be back at my keyboard until Wednesday, April 27. Look forward to a ridiculously long post(s) and countless Wordless Wednesday shots upon my return!

As per previous arrangements, I’ll have a few book reviews posting in my absence. Otherwise, look for your girl Meg in a few weeks. I’ll make my triumphant return just in time for the Book Blogger Convention!

I’ll have a warm pint for you, friends. Cheers!

Bookstore adventures: Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo, N.Y.

Wherever I go and whatever I do, I can’t resist the siren call of a new-to-me bookstore. And if that bookstore happens to be a hip, unexpected treasure — like Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo — who am I to resist a visit?

As others collect snowglobes, postcards or T-shirts from vacations, I collect books. Even if the novel isn’t something I particularly love after finishing, I keep it as a memento of my journey. At New York City’s Strand Bookstore, I picked up a copy of the Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers. In the months since I’ve been home from my city adventures, I haven’t even opened it — but it makes me happy see it and remember standing at a table of new paperbacks, gingerly running my fingers over the covers. New friends I could discover; new worlds I could enter.

But full disclosure, I ultimately chose Tinkers because it wouldn’t add much weight to my already-heaving handbag. (Hey, I don’t tell lies at write meg!)

Several months ago, I was scrolling through Shelf Awareness — a daily e-mail newsletter with news and interesting stories on books and the publishing industry — when I saw a small item on Talking Leaves. Knowing I’d be visiting Spencer’s family there sometime in the near future, I made a mental note to check it out.

As Buffalo’s oldest independent bookstore, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Talking Leaves. When Spencer’s mom Alex was planning our visit, I mentioned that I’d like to visit — but it wasn’t crucial that we go. Sweet and accomodating, Alex made sure we could pop over — only we got there too early. Fresh from a 45-minute flight out of Baltimore, we headed right to Main Street only to learn the store opens at 10 a.m. No matter; we just crossed the street and stepped into Lake Effect Diner, where we all ordered milkshakes. Chocolate and banana for me? Not a bad call.

Once arriving at Talking Leaves, I was immediately in book hog heaven. The store boasts a great mixture of contemporary and literary fiction while also providing the “classics,” which was nice. Warm, cozy and with wonderful natural light from windows at the entrance — including a beautiful stained-glass one — I immediately felt at home.

No independent bookstores exist within a 25-mile radius of my home in Southern Maryland. If there are some? I’ve never heard of them, and it’s rare that I can make it to any of the indie bookstores in D.C. or Virginia. What I’m saying is it’s been a while since I strolled the shelves of a place that wasn’t a corporate megastore, and it was exciting. I have no beef with Borders; I worked there, for goodness sake, and am happy to still have a local bookstore to actually visit. But there is something fun and different about a store that’s completely unique and even boasts local stock. There, books, posters and prints of Buffalo abound.

Spencer, Alex and Levi were great about leaving me to my own devices as I poured through the fiction section, scanning each title with curiosity as I searched for my next great read. My ultimate choice? A beautiful copy of Rachel Ferguson’s The Brontes Went To Woolworths, which came highly recommended by Nymeth. (Her review immediately came to mind when I spotted the book — more than a year after I read her review. Who says book bloggers can’t change the world? Or that a spectacular review can’t influence readers?)

My compadres amused themselves with a resident bookstore cat, who lounged about on a stack of boxes filled with books yet to arrive on shelves. A serious cat lover, Spencer snapped a few shots of him before he sauntered away. Probably to share a love of reading another day.

Can you read this post over the roar of the Niagara?

Home again, friends, and I’ll say this: it’s incredibly difficult coming home from a fabulous weekend, especially when you find yourself back at your desk in less than 12 hours. Good thing I have a Diet Coke, granola bar and some fabulous memories to fuel my morning.

Spencer’s family couldn’t have been any kinder, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed — even at the beach. Though I had my trusty Palm Pre with me to upload an occasional photo to Twitter or scan my email, I wasn’t walking around Niagara Falls clutching a piece of technology. What I was clutching? My camera and Spencer’s hand. And it felt amazing.

They really rolled out the red carpet for me and made me feel so warm and welcomed, and the entire time I was gone I just kept thinking: I’m so happy. His mom made so many awesome plans for us and took me all over the area, where I definitely felt like I was away from it all. Growing up in the suburbs, a land of strip malls with a  Starbucks on every corner, it’s hard to envision wide open spaces. But New York has them — in spades. And it was just fun to be there with such great people and my amazing boyfriend, seeing the place where he grew up. I knew him well before, but I feel like I know him in a different way now. A more complete way.

Oddly enough, I didn’t get much reading done — mostly because I was socializing, traveling, driving about and eating (oh, eating. Lots of eating!). Mockingjay was tucked in my bag through my entire stay, but I only cracked the cover once and read about 10 pages. So I still don’t know what’s become of Katniss, Gale and Peeta, and I’m going to have to tread lightly around the blogosphere until I figure it out! But that should be quite all right.

While I was out, I learned I’d been shortlisted in the Book Blogger Appreciation Awards for Best Written Book Blog and Best Eclectic Book Blog. What an honor — and I’m so excited for all the festivities in September! Thanks, everyone. Voting is open now to registered participants.

I’ll be posting photos from my trip to New York’s Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Jamestown, Chautauqua Lake and Gerry over the coming weeks — probably on Wordless Wednesdays, since that’s often how I roll — but wanted to whet your appetite with just a few snapshots! I took nearly 400 shots over the course of four days — enough to fill up my SD card, blast it — and barely had the energy to lift my head last night, let alone edit my shots. I did manage to get a few up straight out of the camera . . . with many more to come.

Where I am, what I’m reading and how you can reach me

As the final send-off to a marvelous summer (which included — yes — a Foreigner concert), I’m heading to upstate New York with Spencer to visit his parents and meet his family — and I’m excited, but yes . . . I’m nervous. Everything will be fine, I know, and I’m sure we’ll have a great time — it’s just the pressure of making a good first impression that gets to me. I’ve been here before, but not with someone I cared about as much as I care about him. So that? Makes it all the more intense.

But I’m not thinking about it. Not. Thinking. About. It.

On a positive note, it’s currently 64 degrees in Gerry, New York, friends, and what does that mean? I get to pack a jacket. Jeans. Boots. Maybe a scarf. After a long, hot and terrible D.C. summer, I’m thrilled to be headed somewhere cooler! After quizzing Spencer last night about New York temperatures, he said, “I guess think of it being like October weather here.” And October weather? Well, that’s my favorite. So I’m pumped.

In other news, choosing what books to pack for a four-day, busy weekend has proved challenging. I need something for that one hour flight to Buffalo, of course, and I have to choose wisely. Too bad I haven’t found an entertaining book in a while . . . and that nothing new and incredibly exciting has been released lately.

Oh, wait . . .

Yeah. Mockingjay. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Shuffling off to my local Borders, I’ll be picking up a copy on my lunch break today — and am beginning to understand why some folks actually took a whole day off of work to feast on the majesty. I remember being home and reading like a mad person the day after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pubbed, but I was also:

a) On summer vacation
b) A college student
c) Without a big girl job
d) Way more energetic than I am now.

So I’ll have to settle for stowing that gorgeous baby-blue beauty away with me and reading on the plane.

If I can keep my eyes open.

Which is looking doubtful.

I’ll be off enjoying the wonderful weekend in New York and offline, but be sure to check in with me on Twitter@writemeg — where I’ll be posting thoughts, sharing photos from Niagara Falls and generally continuing the #Mockingjay mayhem. See you all soon!